I think anyone new to Buddhism more than often ends up overestimating their ability to grasp the core teaching of Buddhism. Indeed, one can easily delude oneself into believing they can grasp the real message of the Buddha in only a few years. However, it takes a lot longer because as a religion, Buddhism is by far the most profound. This profundity is only appreciated when one has gone back to the drawing board a lot of times trying to figure out the real message of the Buddha. I speak from experience. Still, one never gives up the search. In fact, their appetite should grow for wanting to see what Siddhartha saw when he became awakened.
Failure—not success—is generally what happens to the enthusiast who believes he or she can master Buddhism in a few years. Stephen Batchelor, I hasten to add, is a good example. He was the quintessential enthusiast but as time went on, he failed at comprehending the message of the Buddha. To save face, he invented his own brand of Buddhism. Many Western teachers, to my mind, are more failure than success. All have failed in their quest to see what Siddhartha saw.
Buddhism contains within it itself its own process of bringing to fruition awakening or bodhi. In a manner of speaking, it largely depends upon having a spiritual nose being able to follow the faint scent of Dharma. Speaking of my own journey, when I read Yunmen’s three gates which are: 1) What contains and includes the universe? 2) What stops the flow of reincarnation? 3) What is the state of one wave following another? I knew Buddhism was no ordinary path or a religion like Christianity.
The more familiar I became with Zen literature the more it became apparent to me that I had to have some sort of profound realization or epiphany. Nothing short of this would work. Instinctively, I knew that this realization or satori would be instrumental in putting the Buddhist puzzle back together again in addition to revealing how koans worked.
Buddhists, on the whole, have been unsuccessful in putting the Buddhist puzzle back together including understanding how koans work. Buddhism still lies in pieces—the original picture all but lost. To repeat myself. somewhat, this is due in large part to a kind of subtle hubris by which one overestimates their ability to comprehend what Buddhism is really about. Someone suffering from this generally finds it easier to follow a particular doctrine than investigate, on their own, what the Buddha actually said. They don’t realize that various Buddhist doctrines like the Theravada doctrine of No-Self might well be completely wrong as might be Nagarjuna’s Shunyavada.